SHEPHERDSTOWN — A large Homecoming gathering of 6,113 was able to enjoy the second half of Shepherd’s 37-6 conference win over West Virginia Wesleyan on Saturday.
Those in attendance who had returned to the construction-busy campus for the first time this season saw several features return to the Shepherd offense for the first time this year.
Wide receiver Robert Byrd, a deep threat in past seasons who had played sparingly until the sixth game on Saturday, had five receptions for 91 yards and the Rams’ ground offense had 175 yards and freshman Allen Cross’s three rushing scores. Shepherd had not done much on the ground in four of its five previous games.
Shepherd owned the second half of the WVIAC game, outscoring the Bobcats, 27-0, to move smartly away from its 10-6 halftime lead.
The visiting Bobcats were missing starting quarterback Nate Montana, and were made toothless by the Shepherd defense that allowed no points, only 205 yards of total offense, grabbed away five turnovers, and limited West Virginia Wesleyan to 26 yards rushing.
It was the Shepherd defense that accomplished a four-point lead by halftime because it blanked the Bobcats and limited quarterback-for-a-day Jeff Musselman to just 5-of-18 (with one interception) in his passing statistics.
The Bobcat touchdown came when Brian Vekela intercepted a Bobby Cooper pass and ran it back 21 yards for what would be his team’s only points.
Shepherd had only 158 yards of first-half offense.
The second half was very different. It hardly resembled what had gone on before. A welcomed sun broke through the clouds. And a welcomed Shepherd ground game broke through the Bobcat defense.
Cross capped Shepherd’s first possession of the half with 12-yard scoring run. On the Rams’ next try, they took only five plays to travel 84 yards with Cross bolting to the end zone on a 25-yard carry. It was 23-6. And the Bobcats’ offense hadn’t done much at all.
Cross’s two-yard run was only the third play in 38-yard drive that carried the early fourth quarter score to 30-6.
Before the end came, Cooper found an all-alone Anthony Weisenmiller on a 28-yard scoring throw that brought a 37-6 lead.
Shepherd’s interceptions came from Keon Robinson, Dominic Tolson, and free safety David Carter. Cornerback DJ Scott had a busy day, breaking up one first-half Musselman pass after another. Larry Lowe caused and then recovered a crucial fumble after a long Bobcat punt return appeared to jeopardize the Rams. And Phillip Rhoden had the other fumble recovery.
West Virginia Wesleyan couldn’t run because A. J. Parrish had seven tackles, Robinson had five (mostly by nailing pass receivers after two-yard gains), and Dominique Dixon had four stops.
Homecoming had been an on-field success for the Rams. They were 4-0 in the league and 5-1 overall. The Bobcats were 1-2 in the league and 2-4 overall.
Robert Byrd had returned to a prominent role in happenings on campus. And the Rams’ rushers had accounted for three scores.
Again, it was the Shepherd defense that held the upper hand. Held it all day. Held it as the Rams completed half their conference schedule without a loss.